More Frequent Hurricane Passage Across the Bahamian Archipelago During the Little Ice Age

TitleMore Frequent Hurricane Passage Across the Bahamian Archipelago During the Little Ice Age
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsWinkler, TS, van Hengstum, PJ, Donnelly, JP, Wallace, EJ, Albury, NA, D’Entremont, N, Hawkes, AD, Maio, CV, Roberts, J, Sullivan, RM, Woodruff, JD
JournalPaleoceanography and Paleoclimatology
Date Published11/2023
KeywordsBahamas, Carbonate, common era, hurricanes, Paleoclimate, sedimentology

The year 2020 Common Era (CE) experienced the highest number of named tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean since 1850 CE, but the short instrumental record makes it challenging to assess if this level of activity is statistically meaningful. Here, we present two near-annually resolved hurricane reconstructions from sediment archived in two blue holes located only 300 m apart on the northern margin of Grand Bahama. These two blue holes provide a replicated signal of hurricanes passing within a 50–100 km radius over the last 1,800 years, and the long-term reconstructions document multiple 50-to-150-year intervals when hurricane frequency was significantly higher than it has been over the last 100 years. These two records were first merged into a single stack, and then compiled with five other high-resolution reconstructions from across the Bahamian Archipelago to form a single 1500-year record of Bahamian hurricane frequency. This new Bahamian Compilation documents more hurricanes passing ∼75°W from 21°N to 26°N during the Little Ice Age (LIA; 1300–1850 CE) relative to the prior millennium and the last 170 years. The US Eastern Seaboard also experienced heightened hurricane activity during the LIA, whereas the Gulf of Mexico and Southern Caribbean were inactive. This suggests that despite a globally cooler climate, regional climate conditions during the LIA remained favorable for cyclogenesis and intensification along certain Atlantic hurricane pathways. Perhaps heightened Sahel rainfall during the LIA indicates an increase in African Easterly waves, which in turn possibly seeded more tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Main Development Region.